Monday, April 15, 2013

How Much Does Your Building Weigh?

by Drew Martin
In the April 8 - 14 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek there is the article by Peter Burrows, Spaceship Apple. The introductory blurb reads,

Steve Jobs hired architect Norman Foster to build the greatest headquarters known to mankind. As construction nears, the project is behind schedule, a billion over budget, and shaping up as an investor relations nightmare.

It is a cautious tale of the creepy utopic vision shared by two control freaks, and it makes you feel like you are bearing witness to a dying star, which first explodes in great volume before collapsing upon itself.

Today I watched How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?  Foster's mentor, Buckminster Fuller asked a dumbfounded Foster this question. This inquiry led to a second act of architectural exploration with projects such as Hearst Tower in Manhattan, which was designed as a diagrid that uses 20% less steel than a similar sized skyscraper built with a conventional box structure.

Fuller, not Foster, is the person who coined "Spaceship Earth," which the title of Burrows' article references.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? is a beautiful film. It is clean and precise. It is a designer's dream vision and a classic tale of rags to riches. Design and architecture are often inspired by the arts, and in this case there is a nod to the role of drawing:

Norman never stops drawing. He communicates in the most effective way through a sharp pencil and a beautiful block of paper. In his cars there are fresh notepads and freshly sharpened pencils just in case something comes to him. He is always drawing; drawing, drawing, drawing. It's the way he thinks. It's the way he argues points. You can see the buildings take shape. His lines are very spare, but very expressive, in a very economical way. Just like Norman.

Click here to watch the trailer for How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?